The Feature Friday post from last week gave you a brief introduction to choreographer extraordinaire – Christopher Dean. His latest project features him on ABC’s hit television show The Bachelorette! Tune in this upcoming Monday night June 17 to see him in action with Desiree Hartsock, ABC’s current Bachelorette and all the guys. And, if you miss tuning in live you will be able to catch the full-length episode online at ABC. When I started picking Christopher’s brain about the entertainment industry there was just too much for one post. Our conversation continues …
Is there a quote or philosophy that you adhere to when taking inspiration from other creative works? I try to only take inspiration from the way seeing someone else’s work makes me FEEL. I do not look up videos online of other people’s work if I’m doing a similar project. I rely on my ability and my training. It has not failed me yet. People can identify my work from a mile away.
If I start cherry picking the parts of other people’s work that I think is interesting, it wouldn’t feel authentic to me. And maybe the audience would never know, but I would know. That’s what matters the most. Professional Integrity. If I can make money and steal from others then why would there be a need to ever hire anyone professional to do the job? Any ole Joe could watch YouTube and attempt to reproduce. On a side note, though, there is only so much dance vocabulary. It’s all in how artists rearrange it. It’s knowing the differences between similar vocabulary and the presence of a certain artist’s “signature style” that keeps appearing somewhere else.
In what ways do you think the globalization (i.e. social media, internet, ease of download) of creative work helps and hurts your craft? Let’s start with the positive aspects! The transfer of information and ability to compartmentalize and keep organized is overwhelming. Having music, contracts, sketches, videos of choreography ideas on one single device, like an iPad, or in a single place like YouTube or Vimeo account makes life sooo much easier.
I recently collaborated with world-famous choreographer Cris Judd on the halftime show for the 2013 Orange Bowl. We were able to exchange choreography, auditions, videos, and ideas completely digitally. Working with over 400 dancers and a 250 member marching band we never met in person until the day before the Orange Bowl in Miami. And everything clicked! I’m also able to book work digitally. The producers at ABC hired me to do my guest spot on “The Bachelorette” this season through a series of videos I sent them.
The damaging part of the globalization deals with my original works. I’m still doing okay financially as far as retaining work goes but I have experienced first-hand seeing my work performed without my permission. That is really hurtful because I know how much I got paid, how many hours I put in and who financed the original work. It’s hurtful to me financially, emotionally and to someone who did things the right way by contracting and paying me for the work. What people do not realize is that it hurts more than just the artist. I have also seen inexperienced or untrained people undercut me for jobs because they could use a bootleg Broadway video on YouTube and recreate it for a project with a small budget.
Legally and contractually, I know you can’t say much, but what can you tell us about this upcoming week’s episode of The Bachelorette? I was asked by ABC to come in and be a professional coach for a group date in Atlantic City, NJ. Atlantic City is the original home of the Miss America pageant and so they had the guys on a group date take part in a Miss America style pageant. I had to work with every single guy in the categories of runway, onstage question, talent and swimsuit. There were a lot of guys and each one needed one on one work in each of the categories.
We had so much to accomplish, and teach, and rehearse in a considerably short amount of time – not to mention during this whole time the guys are actually on A DATE with the bachelorette while this is going on. It is a thrilling but awkward experience to be this 13th wheel in a complicatedly organic situation involving competition and romance at the same time. Everyone has to tune in because we filmed so much that there is no telling what will actually air! But, if you know the pageant world you’ll want to tune in for one reason alone: butt glue.
What was the best part about The Bachelorette filming? The challenge of working with guys who had little to no experience when it came to walking a runway, performing a talent, or answering questions on stage. They were all these big, tan, good-looking, confident guys yet they desperately needed my help to succeed. So it was fun to feel really critical in terms of the competition. I also loved seeing the progress I made with the guys and the success the whole thing exhibited. I laughed a lot as well. I think that’s what I’ll remember the most.
What advice do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out? Know how to handle your taxes. Understand what a 1099 is and how to protect yourself at tax time. I’m lucky to have an amazing business and accounting manager in my Mom. She is ace, but I got burned a few times early on with taxes.
Is it more business or more creativity? What is the mix for you now? I try to only handle the creative side. I HATE discussing business, but it’s part of the beast. The only way you can handle it correctly is if you have TRAINED professionals handling your business. Ryanne Saucier handles all of my contracts as well as my partner’s who is a news reporter. My mom handles finances and accounting and that’s her field of professionalism. I don’t see how anyone can do it alone. In fact, I know you can’t. If I had the team back in the day that I have now I’d have a lot more money and a lot less stress!
Overall, a piece of advice for someone interested in entering your field? Artists tend to be so emotion driven, and we LOVE to share. You start out thinking you’ll do anything for free just to have the chance to share and make a name for yourself. But, there comes a certain point where you have to make sure you’re being paid!! It is a career. I recommend getting a 3rd party (sometimes 4th) to manage contracts and finances. It helps if you completely remove yourself and have someone who isn’t afraid to tell someone “no” if it does not work for you. That way you are not the bad guy, but you are also getting what you deserve for your work.
Favorite professional memory? This story always come across a little on the creeper side but it comes from the most sincere adoration. I was fortunate enough to be cast in the show “Carousel” with Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones. A little known fact is that Shirley had performed in every single other Rogers and Hammerstein on Broadway except “Carousel.” However she DID play the lead character in the original 1965 movie version. SO, years later she had the opportunity to fulfill her goal and perform the musical onstage. Since she was much older, she would not be playing the lead this time but would, instead, be playing the role of Aunt Nettie. Aunt Nettie sings the powerful and popular 11th hour ballad during the show.
I was a young performer just getting my start and was enamored with Shirley Jones. She told us amazing stories about working with Frank Sinatra and being on the Partridge family. She would stand in the wings in her rainbow bathrobe and watch us perform the historic original choreography of the Carousel Ballet section of the musical. Well, every night I had a costume change and short break while she sang her big number, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The stage was set so that Shirley would be very far back on the stage and very close to the backdrop. I would quickly change and then walk around the back of the curtain and stand on the other side behind the backdrop No one could see me, including Mrs. Jones but if the curtain had ever come up we would have been less than a foot apart. I would stand quietly and listen to her sing that song giving me chill bumps. I felt like she was singing to me. I was so close to a legend, and we were working together. I’ll never forget it.
Any books or websites or resources you would recommend? Just make sure you have a reliable attorney in your pocket! The investment is worth the peace of mind.
Next project? My next project involves more entertainment and law. I want to adopt a baby. So if this blog shuts down for a few months you’ll know my attorney is busy working on another outrageous project for me. 🙂
Okay, so that last part was news to me! I am sure there is much more to Christopher. If you want to follow Christopher Dean and keep up with the adventures he is up to this week you can find him at Christopher Dean Fan Page or on Twitter @thechrisdean. Let’s show Christopher some love and how proud we are of him in the comments below.
If you’re not following this blog, what are you waiting for? The link is up in the right-hand corner. This blog is fat-free, calorie free AND chopped full of great information. 🙂
Stay Tuned In!
Follow me on Twitter @RyanneDSaucier